In memory of Bart. The horse we’ll all be cheering at Flemington.

October 31, 2015

So here we are. Our favourite time of the year. But the star of the show is missing.

Cup week without Bart. It’s like Christmas without Santa. Sure, we’ll open the presents. But it’s not as much fun.

Those words of wisdom in the days prior. A subtle tip, for those truly listening.

What would he add to the groaning mantlepiece? A feature mile? Another Derby? Dare we dream .. another Cup?

Those more interested in hats than horses would throw a dollar or two on. The rest of us would have a safety bet. Just in case.

And now .. he’s gone. But not forgotten. There will be tributes every day. Words from the heart. We’ll think about bushy eyebrows and thoroughbreds trained to the minute.

So what would the Great Man be thinking, sipping tea at the Head Table upstairs?

I reckon he would be telling us to get on with it. He always believed that the horses were the stars. He’d be happy with the quality on show today.

Surely he’d be impressed with the raw power of Exosphere. There’d be a nod towards Mick Price, as he chases the Derby with Tarzino. But that wonderful gaze, honed over the decades, would be saved for one horse.

Check the form guide for the Group 3 Lexus, and you’ll find the famous Cummings name. Not son Anthony. Grandson James.

He’s training Ruling Dynasty. The way Bart taught him. It’s a big chance, with Tommy Berry up.

A win this afternoon, means an automatic place in the Melbourne Cup. Yep, our most famous name, could be running on Tuesday.

It’s fairytale stuff. And there’s a twist, that only racing could throw up.

It could be the other famous name, that spoils the script. Gai has Excess Knowledge humming. Those using head over heart won’t hear of him being beaten. So here we go again. Cummings V Waterhouse.

The beauty of all this? Bart would be smiling. He loved the twists and turns leading into the Cup. And if young James is successful, the roar might be bigger than we hear for the Derby.

Hold on to your hats folks. That Cummings name might be heading to Cup Day again. Maybe things haven’t changed too much after all.

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Why the rules have to change, so Bart gets to Flemington on Tuesday.

November 2, 2013

So here we are. Australia’s greatest day of racing.

But there’s a more pressing issue than finding the winner of the Derby. Which, by the way, will be Savvy Nature. Money for jam.

Unless we do something, the one and only Bart Cummings might be missing on Cup Day.

Mike Colman has been fighting this all week in the Courier Mail. And I’m with him.

Have you seen the great man lately? Bart, not Mike. Father time is within a length of him. In our mind, we still see him as he once was, tall and proud in the winner’s circle. It’s no longer the case.

It could be, that there won’t be too many more visits to Flemington on the first Tuesday of the month. So we need to act now.

His one and only hope is Precedence. He’s decided not to run him today, even though he could have qualified with a win. No, Bart won’t do that. He wants the committee to help him. And they should.

If they don’t, there’s every chance our great race will go around without the living legend. And that’s simply not acceptable.

Punters, it’s time for us to act. We need to band together, across the nation, and take things into our own hands.

The campaign must start right now, to have the rules changed. Just this once. There’s still time. Precedence must run. Sacrifices can be made.

Yes, it means connections of another horse will miss out. If they are genuine racing lovers, they’ll cop that.

It might be one of the lesser internationals. Boo hoo. Who would you rather see, a Canadian camel, or the famous Cummings colours?

Can you imagine the roar, when Bart shuffles out to the mounting yard? It will be deafening. There won’t be a dry eye in the house.

I can’t begin to think what would happen if the horse actually won. Cup chaos. The only thing guaranteed is that The Master would deliver one of the great one-liners.

Racing has a long and proud history of bending rules. Never has there been a more important time to do it.

It will send a message, that the Cup is about more than money. It’s bigger than that. It’s a part of who we are.

We owe it to Bart. It’s our race, and we want him there.

Start sending messages now. Hit Facebook and Twitter. Ring your radio station. We have until the last race this afternoon.

If they listen to us, it could be the most memorable Cup ever. The day Bart stole the show. Again.


Time for change. Why horse racing should be part of the Olympics.

August 4, 2012

It’s painfully clear to any fair-dinkum sports fan that more than a few Olympic events need to go.

You and I know that members of the IOC are regular readers of Hold All Tickets. Here is our chance to point those learned gents in the right direction.

Badminton is a sport that kids play when they’re bored at parties. It’s not serious. That’s why all those teams started cheating. They’d done the same at their 7th birthday and no-one noticed.

I was a gun handball player at school. Made the ace square most lunchtimes. Funnily enough, that didn’t qualify me for the Olympics. Because we grew up and found far more interesting things to do. Ditch it, and no-one would notice.

Synchronised swimming? Please. I’m sure the girls put in plenty of training, and I admire them for that. But I can’t accept twirling and splashing as a sport. My girls can do that any summer Sunday.

A good rule of thumb is that anything I can do, shouldn’t be part of the Games. I believe I could race-walk, Kel Knight style, without too much trouble. Much slower than those in London, but it could be done. Either run, or go home.

Having tennis superstars playing for medals makes my head spin. Have they been training for the Olympics all their lives? No. For just a minute? No. If the Olympic concept folded tomorrow, would they give two hoots? No.

In four years time, golfers will be on the team. Yep, that model of Olympic spirit, Tiger Woods, could be part of the action. God help us.

Ok, enough of the negativity. I have a plan to put the Gosh back into the Games. And we might even win a few events.

I first saw the idea on that impressive racing website, Racenet. If you haven’t visited it, you should. One of the growing number of top-notch racing sites online.

The boys there suggested racing should be part of the Olympics. Possibly in jest. But they got a big response. And I think they’re onto something.

Imagine the world’s best horses, jockeys and trainers, on the Olympic stage. In the colours of their homeland.

You could have three races. 1200 for the sprinters, 1600 for the middle distance stars, and 2400 for the best stayers. Spread them over a week at the back-end of the Games, when the swimming is done and everything else becomes a yawn.

The best of the Brits. Kiwis would be there with pride. The USA, South Africa, Japan, Germany and all those other countries we see on Sky Racing late at night.

Start the debate on who would represent Australia. Let’s imagine the green light has been given, and we’re in action next week.

Black Caviar would be the only choice for the sprint. She’d take gold, of course. Can you imagine Peter Moody on the Olympic dias, singing the anthem, with a XXXX Gold in hand? It would be on highlight reels for decades.

A tougher choice for the middle distance race. I’d go for More Joyous. She’d have a red-hot go. Gai would be dashing in green and gold. And Singo would become the Laurie Lawrence of the Games Village.

So You Think would make an Olympic size comeback. In Australian colours. Back with Bart Cummings, and blitzing them over 2400.

So there we go. Three gold medals. And ignore all this talk about owners needing cash to compete. If Roger Federer can do it, so could we. It would be up there with winning the cup.

Forget mis-firing Missiles in the pool. The answer is on the track. We’ll go there together, in 2020. And get your bets on now for Bart to be carrying the flag at the Opening Ceremony. Might take him a while to get around, but what a journey it would be.


Mixed emotions on Caulfield Cup Day. Where have all the local stayers gone?

October 15, 2011

Caulfield Cup Day brings with it mixed emotions this year. One of our great races. About to be won by an international.

I’ve lost count of how many are running. Must be close to half the field. Some have their overseas trainers with them. Others have been adopted by our own.

The hot favourite, December Draw, was hand-picked out of Europe. Mark Kavanagh is listed as his trainer, but the horse is Australian as Scary Spice.

Anthony Freedman might win a Group One with Lucas Cranach. He’s from Germany. Try doing the form on his last four starts. You’ll need an interpreter.

The Poms are doing their best. At least Luca Cumani is a regular. Manighar and Drunken Sailor are genuine hopes.

John Moore wants to take the Cup back to Hong Kong. His topweight Mighty High has a bloke named Beadman on top.

There are others. Unusual Suspect comes from the U-S. There’s even a trainer here from North Yorkshire.

Nothing new, you say. The overseas raiders have been coming for years. Get used to it.

But this is different. They might be champions, these visitors. But only the hard-core punters know them.

Will there be passion in the cheering this afternoon? If you’re on the winner, of course there will be. But as an event? Not likely.

You can’t blame our top trainers for looking elsewhere to find a Cup hope. The industry has moved that way. It’s becoming harder and harder to develop a home-grown stayer.

The breeders know where the money is. Few want to wait for a horse to develop over ground. Two year old sprinters. Not six-year-old stayers.

You won’t hear the race clubs admit it, but distance races aren’t sexy anymore. Except that big one at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November.

As owners, we used to dream of Derbys and Cups. Many still do. But it’s becoming harder and harder to place distance horses through the rest of the year.

It’s a vicious cycle. The fewer stayers coming through, the fewer races that get programmed for them.

So we get to the Spring. A famous Group One race worth two and a half million bucks. And it’s full of imports.

Not everyone thinks that’s a bad thing. Some high-profile players believe it adds to our reputation. Helps to build prizemoney and prestige, they reckon.

Maybe so. It’s just hard to cheer for a horse you hadn’t heard of a fortnight ago.

I still love seeing Bart winning our big races. Or Gai. The Hawkes boys. Moody and Waller and Heathcote. With local horses. And Aussie owners, booking out a Chinese restaurant to celebrate.

I can’t see it happening today. Although I’m willing to take on December Draw. Not for me when he’s never had a go at the distance.

I’ve told you before how I struggle to line up the international form. So my tip  means even less than usual. But I do have a fancy.

Manighar is quality. I heard Luca give him some huge wraps a few months back. With that movie star Oliver up, and a track that won’t be too wet, I think he’s a big chance.

This may be influenced by the fact that I backed him at 40 to 1 at the start of the week. As much as it pains me, I’ll be cheering a Pom.

Have a good look at the field this afternoon. And get used to blokes here on passports taking more of our Cups. It won’t be too long before they’re the only ones running in them.


Words of wisdom from a 10 year old girl .. (and what the critics think..)

March 29, 2011

“Daddy, what happens if people think your blog is stupid?”

Once again, my daughter had raised a valid question.

I attempted to come up with a reasoned and mature response. One that a proper author would use.

“Well darling, it’s important to remember that opinions are like bums. Everyone has one.”

Wrong answer. Ten year old girls don’t like hearing fathers talking about bums. Especially in vast numbers. She departed for i-pod therapy, leaving me pondering.

How would I react to negative comments? To those in cyberspace laughing at me, not with me?

The masters of my blog universe have been quick to point out that there was a high chance no-one would give my scribblings a sideways glance, especially in the first few months. Or years. But that didn’t matter, because I was having FUN. As long as I was enjoying the experience, numbers didn’t matter.

Well, nuts to that. If I want to be laughed at I’ll take my shirt off at the beach. Or start salsa dancing. In this blog caper one needs to be loved. And the best way to monitor such affection is through the blog comments section, that you’ve all so heartily embraced.

I thought it might be helpful if I highlighted a few of the more interesting remarks sent my way these past few weeks. And I’m not making any of this up in a cheap stunt to make the piece run longer.

A bloke named Bart from Flemington sent the following. “This is the best bit of racing writing since Banjo Paterson knocked up yarns on beer coasters when I was a lad. Keep up the good work. P.S .. I have something for the Cup this year. Will drop you a note in private.”

And this, from Gai in Sydney. “When it comes to race writing, style is everything. You have none, but I feel very sorry for your wife and daughters, so I will continue to read whatever it is you’re trying to do.”

Good positive feedback. However not everyone has been so kind.

Mr Murdoch from the USA sent the following. “This pile of crap you call writing makes my journalists all over the world look like modern day Shakespeares. You could be the sole reason newspapers survive another decade.”

Pat W, from a TAB somewhere near Mount Coot-tha in Brisbane, says, “You are giving racing journalists, commentators and presenters an ever worse name than they have now. Get back to your real job, if you actually have one.”

A woman who only identifies herself as JK, from a castle in England, says, “I’ve been searching for some far fetched make believe to help with a series of books I’m writing. Sadly, what you’re serving up here is beyond even the wildest of imaginations for teenagers who think flying wizards are normal.”

And finally, this, from blogging giants WordPress.Com. “This stuff stinks. Who let this bloke join our team?”

Actually I made that last one up. They would never say “stinks” on a family blog.

So there we have it. Nothing to worry about. Lots of love out there. Keep those comments coming. Positive, negative and indifferent. Except if you think I’m REALLY stupid. Just because your bum is THAT different, doesn’t mean I have to see it.